Q&A: Wendy Laing and Joe Walsh, Laings of Glasgow

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A new home and a flagship store have been their milestones this year.

Wendy Laing and her husband Joe Walsh have taken over as the directors of Laings in Glasgow after careers outside of the jewellery industry. We find out how their 2012 has fared so far, and their plans to drive sales this Christmas. They were named Ti Sento Retail Stars in this year’s Professional Jeweller Hot 100 2012 in association with The Company of Master Jewellers.

Professional Jeweller: You’ve both stepped into Laings after careers outside the jewellery industry –has that helped or hindered?
Wendy Laing: For us both to have had successful careers outside the industry has given us a lot of skills that we can bring with us which have certainly helped the business. However, these are difficult and challenging times for the industry and a lot of experience is needed to ride the waves. We feel we have a good mix of youthful energy from us and a huge amount of experience from Stuart [Laing] to continue to drive the business forward during these times.

PJ: You seem to be working to build up the online side of the business. Can you tell us a little more about this?
WL: We are developing the Laings website to ensure any customers looking at it will be offered the same 5* service they receive in-store with the ability to browse all our products with ease in their own comfort. We want to appeal to all customers, not only the local market but internationally too as the branded business has no boundaries. Our portfolio of brands we offer is exceptional and we want to become the luxury destination for these brands. The Robert Stewart website [a second retail store run by the Laings team] is more a transactional based site with plenty diamond product and fashion brands to offer which is backed up by the strength of the Laings brand. Social media is also an extremely important part in our online presence and we will continue to look at further ways of enhancing this area.

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PJ: What do you consider your biggest achievements of the past 12 months?
WL: Moving and settling into Glasgow with the family – two kids – a six year old son and eight year old daughter. The expansion and opening of new Laings flagship store, opening and development of Robert Stewart store and brand and most importantly the development three strong teams behind each of our three stores.

PJ: And what kind of challenges have you had to tackle?
WL: [There are] always obstacles and hurdles to overcome. Especially when opening of two different styles of stores. To have the guts to admit when something is not working as expected and make changes quickly. This is from staff to product to display.

PJ: After a year of expansion and settling into the two different stores, what are you plans for your business for 2013?
WL: The business has expanded significantly over the last year, so the immediate plan is to ensure this all working well and running smoothly including the online side. Once this is settled it gives us an excellent platform to look at further expansion of either brand.

PJ: Since you and Joe stepped up to the helm, the store has expanded hugely in terms of floorspace. How has this transition been and why did you feel that it was important to make that upgrade?
WL: Transition has been successful as it has enabled us to provide an even better in-store experience for our customers including a dedicated service department, private diamond lounge, and shop-in-shop areas for our brands. All this has cemented Laings as the luxury destination for watches and Jewellery.

PJ: How do you split your roles at work – and how is it working together and living together?
WL: It certainly makes it easier when the business is currently spread across four properties and our offices are in separate buildings [laughs]. It is easy to bring work home but just need to try and make effort not to talk about it, however often many ideas are thrown about and discussed over the kitchen table. We have very different skill sets, allowing us to focus on different areas.

PJ: When the weekend rolls around how do you, Joe and the kids relax?
WL: Family time is our number one priority. We spend much time with the kids golfing, walking the dog, exploring the outdoors or spending time with friends and family. An ideal day is a day trip to the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, where we spend the day exploring the island and catching the last ferry home. We never miss a school performance, Joe helps coach the mini rugby team, and Wendy finishes each day a little earlier to ensure the children can attend all the extracurricular activities.
 

 

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